I remember hearing David Byrne (formerly of the Talking Heads) say years ago that even though it sounded naïve, he actually believed that if you just put your work out there, people will find it. A similar sentiment was echoed by Morrisey in a video interview I saw days ago on Amazon.com. He was comparing the difference between classical music and pop music, and how pop music via pop culture is just shoved down everyone’s collective throat, while classical music is just out there to be found.
If your work is a part of the pop music industry machine and force fed on the world at large, it gets out there, like a rocket, but that also entails compromise: having to water it down for the masses, censoring the video, bleeping out the words, getting misquoted by journalists and false information being propagated — all for the illusive carrot to sell records and be famous. And if you’re “lucky” enough to be famous, then your ego gets engaged, values get challenged and you become obsessed with keeping the fame going, which waters down and lessens the value of the art. It all becomes its own rat race. With that process, the art wasn’t found by people – it was forced on them.
As the CEO of my record companies, and the artist as well, I have a very different concept and philosophy than the typical pop culture mantra of saturate the market and manipulate through the media if you can. From 1976 to 1986, I refused all interviews, and later I tried to be open to them, but looking back at it now, I realize why I didn’t do interviews in the first place. Being misquoted, misrepresented and distorted has happened to me in enough interviews since then that I’m seriously questioning whether I’ll do them anymore. Some journalists have been great and have not twisted or misquoted me, while with others, I’m questioning if it was actually me they interviewed or a holographic projection, lol. If they’re supposed to be my words, I don’t want anyone changing, misquoting, editing, or positioning them in such a way to alter the meaning to accommodate their viewpoint. All I’ve ever asked for was to have my words be my words, verbatim.
My philosophy is one of simplicity, starting with always being true to the art, never accommodate the limits of an audience, don’t care what people think, and simply put the work out there in a simple, direct and sincere way. Never pander to anyone for any reason and don’t prostitute yourself or be an opportunist, ever. Make the spiritual journey that your essence is taking you on, and never be afraid to go wherever you’re supposed to and as surprising as it may sound I believe that yes, people will indeed find the art.
I compare it to living in the correct way as a person. Why would I try and make people like me? Either they do, or they don’t, and it doesn’t matter at all unless I’m out there hurting people, which I would never deliberately do. I deal with my musical career in the same way – meaning, it’s ok if people like the work, or they don’t. Why would I try to change people’s minds?
If I sell one record, or one billion, it’s all the same to me. Unlike any other CEO I know of, when undertaking a project, I just do what I feel and trust that things will work out. More than anything, I have the great satisfaction of living and creating on my own terms, something that the music industry machine would never let me do.
I learned that lesson all too well when IRS Records (the label I signed with in February 1979) dropped me for not selling enough records after my second LP, Conversation, was released in September 1983. After that, I started releasing independent projects as early as 1988 and have been doing so ever since. I am so grateful that I now have my parent record label La Befana Records, and its subsidiary, 829 Records, and more than anything, the miracle of total creative freedom, as I have no one to answer to but me.
Just like when I released my first ever Christmas Jazz CD, “Tidings of Comfort and Joy: a Jazz Piano Trio Christmas,” in May 2006; and the 1970’s compilation, “What’s This? 1976-1979” on April 1, 2008, I have several new projects on the horizon that I’m thrilled about. In pop culture, it’s all about trends, the fickle world we live in and the terror of getting old. Anything created a few minutes ago is already considered old, and a year is considered ancient history…so everyone’s in this frenetic rush of creating and promoting ever disposable “art.”
I have a completely different perspective of time – one that sees time as eternal and endless, and because of that consciousness, I am not worried, frantic, frustrated, or in a hurry at all, as I’ve been in this since I was six and will be in it forever. I am so appreciative of that wondrous gift we call “time,” which allows me to just enjoy the journey, continue to create, produce and release new projects solely on my terms – and let people continue to find them, as they already are…